Will Congress Make History and Reject the War in Yemen?

The United States is enabling war crimes in Yemen, and even Trump’s most vocal enablers are turning against him on this one. In December, the Republican-controlled Senate took the unprecedented step of voting to end U.S. support for Saudi war crimes in Yemen, since Trump won’t do it himself.

Now, in the new Congress, there’s a real chance this resolution could pass both the House and the Senate. The House version, H.J. Res 37, just passed—a historic win both for peace and for democracy.

Next up, the fight goes to the Senate. We’re eagerly watching to see what happens next.

Here’s what you need to know.

What exactly is the war in Yemen? How is the U.S. involved?

It’s a complicated situation but, in short: Yemen is involved in a civil war, with Saudi Arabia leading a coalition to support one side, and Iran supporting the other side. Many experts characterize it as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The United States supports the Saudi-led coalition. This has mainly involved providing refueling services for airstrikes, selling weapons to the Saudis, and sharing intelligence for targeting. This support is essential to the continuation of Saudi’s air campaign that continues to target civilian areas and vital civilian infrastructure in violation of international law.

Feeling the pressure, the Trump administration announced they would stop the refueling services. But that’s not enoughthe U.S. needs to stop ALL participation in the Yemen war and all arms sales to the Saudis.

Yemen was already the poorest country in the Middle East, and the war has only made a bad situation worse. It’s the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, and the United States is complicit.

This war didn’t start with Trump—the United States has been helping the Saudis commit war crimes in Yemen for years now. But Trump’s administration has doubled down by increasing the U.S. military’s role in the Yemen conflict and increasing arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

There’s another huge factor here: this war is not only terrible policy, it’s completely unconstitutional. Congress, not the President, is supposed to decide where we go to war and when. And Congress has never authorized this war.

What does the Jamal Khashoggi murder have to do with Yemen?

Yet again, Trump is siding with authoritarians over Americans.

It is clear by now that American resident, Washington Post contributor, and frequent Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in a Saudi consulate in Turkey, based on orders from the highest levels of the Saudi government.

It is also clear that Trump has no plans to meaningfully hold the Saudis accountable. Over and over, he and his administration keep echoing Saudi talking points and participating in the cover-up.

There’s now a pattern: from Vladimir Putin to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Trump would rather stand with hostile foreign regimes than the American people.

It shouldn’t be that hard for Trump to denounce Saudi Arabia’s murder of an American resident and take steps to actually hold them accountable—so why isn’t he doing that?

As usual, Trump has given us clues by saying the quiet part out loud. He’s spoken openly about the billions of dollars the Saudis spend on American weapons, padding defense contractors’ pockets. (By the way: war profiteering long predates the Trump administration, Trump just admits it bluntly).

But there’s more. Trump and his war cabinet are obsessed with “countering Iran” (read: building up to a new war) and consider Saudi Arabia an important ally in doing that.

Additionally, as is so often the case with Trump, his foreign policy is guided by his own corruption and conflicts of interest. The Saudis pour millions into Trump’s hotel business, and he has stated openly that these business entanglements are a major reason he doesn’t want to criticize them.

Bottom line: the Saudi government murdered a U.S. resident in order to silence him. The Saudi government depends heavily on U.S. military assistance. The best opportunity to hold the Saudis accountable is to withdraw U.S. support for their war crimes in Yemen.

What happened in the last Congress?

By a vote of 56-41, the U.S. Senate passed S. J. Res. 54, a measure to end the unauthorized and immoral U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen. This is the first time the Senate has ever used the War Powers Resolution to vote to end an unauthorized war.

They then followed it up with a unanimous declaration that that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is responsible for Khashoggi’s murder. They are doing what Trump will not do.

By the way: it’s pretty likely that the House would have passed this Yemen resolution too, if only Paul Ryan had put it on the floor. Instead, he helped slip a provision to block it from the House floor into an unrelated procedural vote on the annual farm bill (confusing, we know! That’s Republican shenanigans for you….) Republicans didn’t have enough votes to approve this trick on their own and, unfortunately, five Democrats sided with the GOP to stop the House from even voting on Yemen:

  • Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16)

  • Rep. Al Lawson (FL-5)

  • Rep. David Scott (GA-13)

  • Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2)

  • Rep. Collin Peterson (MN-7)

So, what now?

Because it’s a new Congress, we had to start the process all over again. Both the Senate and the House have now re-introduced the resolution, the House version has passed! 

Here's a link where you can see how your Representative voted.

The Senate is expected to quickly move next. There is a real chance this thing could pass both the House and the Senate, but we have to keep the pressure up.

If your Representative voted for the House version, thank them!

Next, ask your senators to co-sponsor the Senate version and publicly urge their colleagues to do the same.

You can check here to see if your Senators have co-sponsored S. J. Res. 7.

If they have, call and thank them! If they haven’t, urge that they do so as soon as possible.

Checks and balances are meaningless if Congress doesn’t exercise them. Be sure your MoCs know that you support them in taking back their war powers, holding Trump (and the Saudis) accountable, and working to promote the end of U.S-enabled atrocities in Yemen.